Monday, 28 March 2011


No swanning around for me as work is definately getting in the way of birding. The Prestwick Carr list was stagnating a bit until I got out last week and had a close fly by of a Peregrine and a squeeling Water Rail along with Song Thrush in full song and a couple of passing Lesser Black back Gulls. A pair of Coots has returned to Banks Pond joining the Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Oystercatchers and Tufted Ducks as they prepare to breed.

Then yesterday my first singing Chiff Chaff and also Linnets in song flight as my count topped 40 for the first time since the turn of the year. I grabbed a moment last evening for a final look before the torment of the week commenced and was rewarded with my first Sand Martins. Definately a record shot so I enlarged the bird just to check.

That puts the list on 72 with a week of arrivals anticipated although the water has subsided and the chance of good waders may be slim. The Curlew flock remains around 40, down on some years when up to 80 can be expected but more worrying is the total lack of any Lapwing territories despite the good moist ground conditions. Can't explain why this should be so.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


A pair of ducks caught in the late evening sun yesterday reminded me of the wall decorations that used to adorn my Grans parlour. I think they were produced by Beswick and the china ornaments, normally in a group of three of reducing size to mimic perspective, were very common on the walls of northern pit villages and even took on a good luck role which is unusual as birds pictures were generally regarded as unlucky.
A quick trawl through Google found that the flying duck remains highly popular as a bit of retro art and has even developed into wall hangings in the States.

These metal ones are highly popular in Oz along with the Beswick originals

A more modern take in black and white of which colours I highly approve.

but lime green is a shade too far!!

Monday, 21 March 2011


Hey missus did you know they have dedicated a day to us Spuggies. Not very well publicised though. Was over before I knew it was here.

Never mind dearest No 1 Spuggy Terrace is just the place I've been looking for and the neighbours are very chirpy! Should be eggscellant for a couple of broods.


Friday, 18 March 2011


There are few things I find more tragic than a bird that can no longer fly. For some reason the loss of that freedom that I so crave myself seems particularly sad. On my way to a job in Darras Hall this week I've noticed a Crow that was always on the verge near the roundabout at the end of Rotary Way. Clearly having a damaged wing it seems to have decided that this area is where an existence can be sustained.

This afternoon I watched for twenty minutes as it walked around its small patch of grass tossing up leaves and clearly finding a fair amount of food. The area is probably quite good as there is no path nearby, a bit of hedge cover and is not conducive to dog walking due to the passing traffic to which the bird seems quite unconcerned.

At one stage I got out of the car to approach the bird but thought better of it as I forced it closer and closer to the speeding cars. I have had a couple of other experiences of flightless corvids and it seems they can cope with the situation quite well. The first was a pair of Jackdaws a few years back where the female was seen to stand by and help a flightless male partner. Perhaps this was just a strong pair bond or could it be more social than that.

A few weeks a go a friend brought me a first winter Jackdaw with a clearly broken wing asking if there was anything that could be done. My limited knowledge led me to conclude there was nothing and I tend to think that any damaged birds taken to Vets or the RSPCA may be taken in but are likely rapidly dispatched. Rather than killing the creature which didn't exhibit signs of distress, pain or bleeding I suggested he return it to the area where he found it and just check that the bird had space to feed, was not trapped and was not being attacked by its own kind.

I don't know how it got on but I hope the Jackdaw community took it in or that it met a rapid and more natural end. Is this sentimentality, lack of responsibilty or hopeless optimism?

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Long shot

If you saw this sitting atop a bush what would you assume it to be. Gull, Heron or perhaps in a flight of misguided fancy a Gyr Falcon! When I was out on Prestwick Carr last Sunday this bird was caught in the strong late evening sun. A fellow watcher was peering through his binoculars not quite able to make the decision. Having previous of this bird I wandered up and identified the Prestwick Carr 'white chested' Common Buzzard.

Nearby a more normally marked example of the species was available for comparison appearing almost black at the distance. The white bird eventually flew in typical flappy Buzzard style making the ID complete.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Not such a stiffy

On yet another grey Saturday lost to work but grabbed some relaxation with the Fulmars at Tynemouth. I could watch them for hours as they glide, bank and soar using the updraught from the cliffs. Managed to catch this one on downbeat indicating just a little bit of flex in the normally stiff wings.

No tsunami just the pleasing breaking of waves as the tide came in and ships waited for clearance to dock.

Then the bloody phone rang and I was called away to a job. Peace shattered and mobile just saved from being flung in the briny!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Mr & Mrs

Some creative planning meant arranging meetings at Blyth and Widdrington such that there was sufficient time in between to take in a coastal jolly in the lovely sunshine. Plenty of Pink footed Geese at Cresswell and Hauxley was nice but the Smew pair at Druridge Country Park was too tempting even though I knew they would be sitting as far away from the shore as physically possible.
Pitched up at the boat landing and sure enough there they were almost directly in front of me but a good hundred meters away. V and Colin were there and despite the excellent conditions equally frustrated by the limited photo opportunities but the views through the scope were splendid. We spent a good half hour encouraging folk on the far shore to create as much disturbance as possible to flush the birds toward us. Eventually somebody did but they flew to a point equally distant where after a brief feed they slept then flew back to their original spot when these two shots were grabbed.

Can't complain. The experience was far better than the freezing half hour in greyness at QE Park last week.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Two by two

As I walked out of Dinnington Post Office on Friday lunchtime I noticed a flock of feeding Jackdaw on the green and amongst them were not one, but two birds showing characteristics of the Nordic 'monedula' sub species. I also managed to find one up at Elsdon on a Bird Atlas survey last weekend so I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm seeing things or that this bird is not as rare as previous records suggest.

Meanwhile on Prestwick Carr the list staggers on to 64 with three Dunlin on the flash water last weekend and the Curlew flock building to around 30-40 birds. The water though is draining well and will likely be gone by the end of this week. Just in time fror the start of Spring passage...bummer.
As I had my Nordic encounter the first Oystercatcher of the year flew calling overhead so I headed up to Banks Pond where the pairs were forming. The Canada Geese had returned and would likely breed here with the Swans which had been forced off the pond on the Carr by the freeze earlier in the week likely to return there and a pair of Tufted Duck who always gather here pre nuptials but never appear to breed. I wonder where they go to?

A pair of Greylag Geese have established a territory deep in the heart of the Carr and can be heard most mornings calling before heading off together for some grazing.

But grey on greyness does not produce a great photograph! Come on sun, lets have yer.

Friday, 4 March 2011

The bitch is back

My female Sparrowhawk continues to create havoc in the garden. Constant attacks over the last two days means even the Robin is singing from the depths of the bushes.

The bird seems to have a determination that I've not witnessed before as normally after a kill she moves elsewhere for a while but shes been perched in the bushes, down on the ground near the feeders and skulking in the garden just waiting.

As I took the shot above I noticed a Great Tit on a branch about six feet above her absolutely motionless in which state it stayed for some two minutes before a Reed Bunting arrived and noticing the hawk immediately flew off giving the Tit an opportunity to make its escape. The Hawk didn't move though as it had its eye on a bird in cover. I got sick and opened the window to flush it but it returned half an hour later.

Sadly there is evidence of its success at two locations although I suppose I must accept that the bird must eat, but why my Spuggies! I suspect the extra effort may be a feast before the famine caused by breeding although I've no real evidence to support this and of course once its bred the bugger comes back to feed its young.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fly by

Life sucks at the moment. Nothing but work and problems. In those frequent moments when I loose all desire to live I go to the back window and take pot shots at those with the freedom to fly. If only.
On the bright side at least the suns out.